From Victims to Litigants

32 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2016 Last revised: 3 May 2017

See all articles by Elizabeth L. MacDowell

Elizabeth L. MacDowell

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: 2016


This Article reports findings from an ethnographic study of self-help programs in two western states. The study investigated how self-help assistance provided by partnerships between courts and nongovernmental organizations implicates advocacy and access to justice for domestic violence survivors. The primary finding is that self-help programs may inadvertently work to curtail, rather than expand, advocacy resources. Furthermore, problems identified with self-help service delivery and negative impacts on advocacy systems may be explained by the structure of work within self-help programs and the nature of partnerships to provide self-help services. The Author uncovers previously unseen impacts of self-help programs on survivors and on the resources to help them. She concludes with a discussion of the implications for future research directions and describes what can be done now to improve self-help services for survivors.

Keywords: self-help, pro se litigants, domestic violence, self-represented litigants, access to justice, family court

Suggested Citation

MacDowell, Elizabeth Lillian, From Victims to Litigants (2016). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 67, 2016; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Lillian MacDowell (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States
702-895-2080 (Phone)

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